Respond to essay topic, choosing the answer with which you most agree or disagree. In addition to your comments about why you agree or disagree with the essay discussion, describe a precedent that was set by the actions or events discussed in the essay you chose. Does it affect us today?
April 20, 2019
The relationship between the United States and slavery has always been a topic of discussion in history. Specifically, it is critical to note the progress many influencers have made throughout history towards the abolition of slavery, notably John Quincy Adams, William Lloyd Garrison, and Angelina and Sarah Grimke. All of these abolitionists were ahead of their time to say the very least, as they all advocated for the fact that slaves were people and nothing less, not a business.
From 1825 to 1829, John Quincy Adams served as the President of the United States. Through his presidency he advocated heavily for the abolishment of slavery. Following his time in office, he played a crucial role in eradicating the “gag rule,” which would have made it so the House of Representatives would be banned from taking any anti-slavery legislation into consideration (John.) Also, according to Human Rights First, “Amid his campaigns to end slavery, he also petitioned Congress to provide land for displaced Native Americans.” Likewise, in 1841, John Quincy Adams represented a group of African Americans in the Supreme Court Case United States v. The Amistad (Argument). On the Amistad, a Spanish ship, around 50 African Americans were kidnapped and transferred to Cuba. They rebelled, killing two crew members, ultimately taking over the ship, and demanding to be taken back to Africa. The remaining crew members sailed them back to New England and they were immediately jailed (Amistad Newspaper Accounts). Adams made the argument that the kidnapped African Americans should be released, as they were illegally taken and enslaved in the first place.
Similar to John Quincy Adams, William Lloyd Garrison made contributions towards the abolishment of slavery. William Lloyd Garrison differentiated from traditional abolitionists of the time, as they advocated for gradual emancipation. In contrast, Garrison advocated for the immediate emancipation and release of all slaves. In 1831, Garrison published his first issue of “The Liberator” in 1831, where he exclaimed “ I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population…I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation” (William). Undoubtedly, Garrison angered a multitude of people for his extremely forward thinking and writing towards slavery. However, without advocates such as Garrison, the abolishment of slavery could have been a much more lengthy and strenuous process than it already was to begin with.
Additionally, both Angelina and Sarah Grimke participated in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements. The sisters were exposed to slavery at a very young age, as they grew up on a plantation and therefore grew to despise the idea of slavery (Grimke). In 1836, Angelina wrote “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” which urged southern women to participate in the abolitionist movement and join the cause against slavery. In her writing, Angelina stated “I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken.” Many had negative feelings towards her appeal, as it angered both those who were pro-slavery and those who believed women did not have a place in any movement. Later, Sarah Grimke was inspired to write “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes.” Angelina Grimke also had interaction with William Lloyd Garrison, as she sent a letter to him following the public outrage that surrounded “The Liberator.” The letter read “If persecution is the means which God has ordained for the accomplishment of this great end, emancipation, then…I feel as if I could say, let it come; for it is my deep, solemn deliberate conviction, that this is a cause worth dying for….” (Grimke).
I personally believe John Quincy Adams most greatly impacted the eventual abolition of slavery. Not because of his motivation or opinions on the matter, but specifically because of his influence. What differentiates him from the other abolitionists I’ve discussed is his amount of power. As a former president, he had established credibility and therefore people were more inept to listen to his ideas and writing. While I believe the Grimke sisters had the most bravery and had the most solid ideas towards the anti-slavery movement, they unfortunately had little credibility at the time due to the fact that many ignored their notions solely because of their gender. Adams was also the only abolitionist I discussed that actually had a direct influence on legislation which therefore affects the anti-slavery movement the most.
Word Count: 786
“Historical Abolitionist of the Month: John Quincy Adams.” Human Rights First, www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/historical-abolitionist-month-john-quincy-adams (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
Argument of John Quincy Adams, Before the Supreme Court of the United States _ in the Case of the United States, Appellants, vs. Cinque, and Others, Africans, Captured in the schooner Amistad, by Lieut. Gedney; 1841.pdf
John Quincy Adams Gag Rule speech.pdf